Biosolids Reuse

What Are Biosolids?
Biosolids are a safe and beneficial resource composed of essential plant nutrient and organic matter that is recovered from the treatment of domestic sewage in a wastewater treatment facility. Biosolids can be reused and applied as fertilizer to improve and maintain productive soils and to stimulate plant growth. In fact, farmers and gardeners have been reusing biosolids for ages, and they are also used to fertilize gardens and parks, reclaim mining and forestry sites or even generate electricity when used as fuel. Biosolids are carefully monitored and must be used in accordance with regulatory requirements.

Why Is Reuse Important?
Given the strains of population growth and higher costs, finding ways to reuse or recycle limited resources is critical to a sustainable environment. Communities across North America and around the world conserve natural resources by recycling everything from glass and plastics to paper and metal, and their wastewater facilities reclaim safe, nutrient-rich organic material from the millions of liters of wastewater they treat each year. This reclamation process, which cleans the water and protects public health, results in the production of biosolids.

Are There Standards For Quality?
In the United States, all biosolids reuse programs must meet strict quality criteria and regulations set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Standards were based on EPA’s rigorous review of decades of long-term scientific studies regarding the safety and effectiveness of biosolids reuse. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also encourage the beneficial use of biosolids.

Pretreatment regulations also require that industrial plants treat or remove any contaminants from their wastewater in accordance to these requirements before it is discharged to municipal wastewater plants, where regular testing ensures high quality biosolids. And specifically mandated treatments minimize any potential odor associated with biosolids.

What Are Results of Biosolids Reuse?

  • Higher Yields: In farming, biosolids ruse has been shown to produce significant improvement in crop growth and yield.
  • Lower Costs: Biosolids reuse can be a cost-efficient complement to chemical fertilizers that contain inorganic chemicals with biosolids.
  • Greater Savings: Increased biosolids reuse enables local governments to market biosolids products and helps to offset the costs of ensuring clean water quality to their citizens.
  • A Cleaner Environment:  Biosolids reuse programs can save landfill space, transform community waste into valuable resources, and support a cleaner, more sustainable environment.

For more information, visit the National Biosolids Partnership, a not-for-profit alliance formed in 1997 with the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (formerly Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies), Water Environment Federation, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.